Access to justice campaigners are looking at the possibility of opening a law centre in Wales, which has been hit hard by government cuts to legal aid over recent years.
Early plans for North Wales Law Centre were revealed last week at a Young Legal Aid Lawyers event on access to justice and legal advice deserts in Wales.
Annie Bannister said a steering group is assessing whether to open a centre in north Wales, where the legal aid system is ‘pretty poor’ and where 23 firms with legal aid contracts have been identified.
Bannister, a caseworker at Jefferies Solicitors, said law centres are seen as specialists in advice, legal casework and litigation, and are set up and structured as an entity to deliver those services.
The group has yet to decide which areas of law the centre will cover but the project is at a ‘critical point’. Bannister said: ‘We want to work in partnership with organisations that already exist and are working hard in this sector. What we do not want to do is to…work in competition with anyone.’
Also involved in the project is Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre supervising solicitor Sue James, who helped set up Ealing Law Centre in London. James said the ‘huge’ challenges included where the centre should be located, and delivering services in rural and remote communities. However, she said: ‘We’ve got to ensure the service is dual-language.’